On Tuesday, the federal government released the National Climate Assessment (NCA), the definitive account of climate change’s already-occurring impacts on the U.S., and of how those impacts will only be felt more acutely as time goes on.
So, how did the cable news networks cover it?
Al Jazeera America was the clear leader in coverage. Besides reporting directly on the assessment and its contents, AJAM had reporters in San Francisco and South Florida to cover the impacts of sea level rise on coastal communities, one in the West looking at drastically low snowpack and drought, and featured NCA authors, climate scientists, and others explaining the assessment’s findings in-depth. AJAM’s 8pm News hosted by John Seigenthaler devoted over half of its hour-long running time to the climate assessment and its implications, more than Fox News spent over the course of the day.
And at the same time Seigenthaler was telling his audience, “the threat is no longer distant; it’s affecting Americans right now,” Fox News was taking a different approach. “The White House releases a dire report on climate change,” Laura Ingraham announced as guest-host of the O’Reilly Factor, “Is it trying to distract its critics from Benghazi and other problems?” She did not clarify during the course of the segment that a 1990 Congressional mandate required that the assessment be released every four years.
Fox News coverage did not discuss the contents of the report, focusing instead on disputing the reality of climate change, disputing the possibility of addressing it, and labeling the assessment a distraction or gift to Obama’s supporters intended to help Democrats in November’s midterm elections. In a particularly-noteworthy panel on Special Report With Bret Baier, George Will accused climate scientists of believing in climate change for pay, and claimed that money flowing from fossil fuel interests to deny climate change “pales in comparison to the money flowing from the federal government.”
Both CNN and MSNBC covered the landmark report in depth, looking into the impacts the U.S. is already seeing from the changing climate, breaking them down region-by-region, and inviting experts on to discuss.